Diversity in our workplace requires the need to be more sensitive to those of other cultures. But what does it mean when you lead in an organisation where the dominant culture is not your own?

From experience the blending of cultures of individuals and groups form the culture of the organization. How the individuals and their cultures blend and come together will impact on the culture of the workplace. How do we deal with a culturally diverse workplace and deliver outcomes for the organisation and individuals?

Having recently worked in Saudi Arabia and led a team comprising Saudis, Australians, Moroccans, Italians, Germans, French, and English. A diverse team all with their own personalities, bias and cultural differences which resulted in different individual behaviours. The need for cultural intelligence was paramount.

Cultural Intelligence can be considered the skill required to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It’s the capability to cross boundaries and prosper in multiple cultures. It goes beyond our existing knowledge of cultural sensitivity and awareness by highlighting certain skillsets and capabilities needed to successfully realise your objectives in culturally diverse situations.

The EW Group suggest an individual possessing cultural intelligence is not just aware of different cultures – they are able to culturally adapt and effectively work and relate with people across a variety of cultural contexts.1

Cultural intelligence links to emotional intelligence but goes a bit further. People with high emotional intelligence can pick up on the emotions, wants and needs of others. People with high cultural intelligence are attuned to the values, beliefs and styles of communication of people from different cultures.2 They use this knowledge to help them relate to others with empathy and understanding.

Cultural Intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.

Harvard Business Review

From my experience as a certified i4 Neuroleader Practitioner and the workplaces I turn to the i4 Neuroleader framework pillars: Performance, Collaboration, Innovation and Agility to guide me in being culturally aware. While cognisant of the four pillars I found agility my key focus for dealing with the new experience and building the team with such cultural diversity.

By applying the four elements of agility: intuition, awareness, influence, and adaptability, I was able to develop a team of high performing individuals who were capable of self-managed work and high-quality delivery in short time periods.

Pulling it together it is important to continually scan the environment, trust your feelings and go with your gut feeling. Do not over think your decisions when facing the challenge of working with different cultures. 
Look after yourself and check in on yourself regularly – your feelings, your level of tiredness, diet, and exercise while at the same time being aware of what is happening around you. The greater you are aware of your self and what happening around you the easier to adjust to change and challenges.

Ensure you manage your influence through proper application of personal power, establish clear priorities for yourself and team and empower the team to deliver, and no matter what respect every individual for who they are and what they believe.

Be ready to change and be adaptive. Versatility is key it necessary to be able to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity in culturally diverse environments. Remember self-correct and apologise when needed.
As Harvard Business review defines ‘culturally intelligence’ as an outsiders ability to fit... the i4 Neuroleader Platform provides the skills and tools to thrive in a culturally diverse environment with cultural intelligence.

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Originally posted on: 15 February 2022
Last updated on: 12 April 2024
Stephen Murray

Stephen Murray

i4 Neuroleader Certified
Steve Murray is a self-directed leader and innovative professional with extensive experience delivering complex strategic planning, policy, operational and regulatory outcomes across local, regional and State government jurisdictions both nationally and internationally. Steve likes to motivate his teams to improve performance and results through smarter use of available resources. He believes that cultivating productive working relationships with key stakeholders is crucial for the success of any project.

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